Tolo News – Six Civilians killed in Helmand roadside mine blast

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Washir district – Helmand – Afghanistan, 29 June 2020. At least six civilians, including women and children, were killed in a roadside mine blast in southern Helmand province on Sunday afternoon, local officials said on Monday.

The incident took place in Washir district after a civilian vehicle struck a roadside mine, said Mohammad Zaman Hamdard, a spokesman for provincial police chief.

“Two other civilians were wounded in the blast and the victims have been taken to a nearby hospital,” he said.

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/6%C2%A0civilians-killed-helmand-roadside-mine-blast

The Tribune – Sutlej banks not repaired

Harshraj Singh – Tribune News Service

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 28 June 2020. A big portion of the Dhussi bund and berm (area along the banks) on the Sutlej was damaged at Garhi Fazal village near Mattewara in Ludhiana district last year, when the river had overflowed during the rains.

However, floods were averted when a villager reached the embankment and raised an alarm after seeing the damaged portion.

However, learning no lessons from the past, no work has been done to strengthen the river banks this year.

The panchayats of various villages, including Garhi Fazal, Machhiyan, Toggar and Mattewara, have written to the Ludhiana Deputy Commissioner in this regard.

The sandbags placed to repair the banks at Garhi Fazal last year have now started getting damaged. The residents of nearby villages are worried that the ‘weak banks’ might lead to a difficult situation once the rains begin.

Gurnam Singh (68), a villager, said, “When a major portion of the bund and adjoining land washed away last year, axed trees and sandbags were placed to protect the remaining portion.

The trees and sandbags have started getting damaged now. Monsoon is nearing but no steps have been taken to strengthen the banks. We fear there are chances of flooding if the banks are not strengthened on time”.

In the letter to the Ludhiana DC, Garhi Fazal village sarpanch Joginder Kaur said around 1-km-long portion of the river bund had become weak. She appealed to the district administration to take steps to strengthen it.

In August 2019, floods had hit some villages of Ludhiana district, when a long breach had occurred in the Dhussi bund on the Sutlej in Bholewal Qadim village.

Gurcharan Singh, sarpanch of Allowal village, said the breach in the bund at Bholewal Qadim was plugged by putting in soil last year.

“But there is an urgent need to strengthen the river embankment. We have requested the department concerned in this regard many times but officials of Ludhiana and Jalandhar are passing the buck over the jurisdiction.

The flood threat can’t be ignored as the bund is weak. We request the government to do the needful,” he said.

According to an official of the Drainage Department, the work got delayed due to fund crunch.

However, Harjot Singh, executive engineer of the Drainage Department, Ludhiana, said the tendering process had been completed and the required work at the Garhi Fazal bund and other points would be started soon.

“The work will start within a few days at vulnerable points at Dulewal, Mattewara, the seed farm site near Ladhowal, Khera Bet and Manewal sites in Ludhiana district,” he added.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/sutlej-banks-not-repaired-ludhiana-farmers-worried-105848w

Gentbrugge – Gentbrugse Meersen

Gentbrugse Meersen
07 April 2020

Kaasjeskruid pad – Mallow path

Canada Geese

Dwergmuispad – Harvest mouse path

My favourite type of path

A very man-made hill !

Young trees having a hard time due to drought

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Times of India – UK Sikhs fighting for ethnic tick-box in census claim victory in Scotland

London – UK, 29 June 2020. The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) is celebrating a “victory” in its campaign to get a Sikh ethnic tick-box added to the 2021 UK census after Scottish ministers agreed to put a prompt for Sikhs in the “other” part of the ethnicity response options.

They also assured to “monitor Sikhs as an ethnic group as well as religion” going forwards.

The SFUK, which claims to have the backing of more than 150 gurdwaras and Sikh organisations, has withdrawn its legal case in Scotland but is still battling ahead with a second judicial review against the Cabinet Office over the lack of a Sikh ethnic tick-box in the proposed census for England and Wales.

On 07 May, the Census (Scotland) Regulation 2020 was laid in the Scottish Parliament which included a prompt for Sikhs and Jews in the “Other” response option to the question “What is your ethnic group?”.

“At the top there is a choice of White, Mixed, Asian, African, Caribbean and Other. Sikhs is not within Asian, it is coming under Other,” said Dabinderjit Singh OBE, principal adviser to the SFUK.

The Federation’s tick-box campaign got a further boost in a letter dated June 24 from Scotland’s economy secretary Fiona Hyslop.

The letter, which TOI has seen, states she will now “work with the Sikh Federation (UK) to ensure public bodies in Scotland monitor Sikhs as an ethnic group, as well as a religion”.

In the past public bodies have only followed the Census categories for ethnic data collection. “The only reason we wanted a Sikh ethnic tick-box box was to force Scotland to monitor Sikhs,” explained Singh.

“We feel we have won the war in Scotland and do not feel there is any point in continuing legal action in the court of session.”

The Federation has also withdrawn its appeal against a 12 December 2019, judgment handed down in a first judicial review the SFUK brought against the Cabinet Office over the England and Wales census after the government objected to there being two cases running simultaneously over the same issue.

On 11 June, SFUK submitted an application for a second judicial review to the high court seeking to quash the Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 on the grounds it was unlawful after Mrs Justice Lang ruled the first legal challenge was premature.

Bringing the first case cost the Federation just over £1,00,000 in ‘capped’ legal costs for both sides.

If the second judicial review is allowed, the legal costs may not be capped and if the Federation win the case, the UK-wide census scheduled for 21 March 2021, could be delayed.

On 16 June, the High Court ruled the second judicial review would be “expedited” and put before a high court judge on or before 03 July to make a decision as to whether it can be allowed.

Lord Singh, director, Network of Sikh Organisations, said: “The Sikh Federation UK has already racked up £100,000 in legal costs and continues legal action in the high court in London.

They need to be held to account for this, and ordinary members of Britain’s Sikh community, who the evidence suggests are satisfied in being recorded under religion in the census, must inform politicians here and in Scotland that this action is not in our name.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Anyone who chooses to identify as being of Sikh ethnicity in this census will be able to by using the write-in option and the search-as-you type function online.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/uk-sikhs-fighting-for-ethnic-tick-box-in-census-claim-victory-in-scotland/articleshow/76679670.cms

Note: Lord Singh at the meeting at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Hounslow in December 2017 told Iain Bell the Deputy National Statistician that the Sikh Federation’(UK) were making empty threats about legal action.

He went on further to state he would take the matter to court to reverse the situation if Sikhs were recognised as an ethnic group (arguing Sikhs should be happy ticking Indian).

When the Sikh Federation (UK) got directly involved with the issue in Scotland in January 2020 Lord Singh’s NSO briefed Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to ignore the Sikh Federation (UK) as we also campaign for self determination and a sovereign Sikh homeland.

What the NSO completely failed to appreciate is that most MSPs belong to the Scottish National Party (SNP) and they form the Scottish Government.

The Census (Scotland) Regulation 2020 that came not effect on 16 June 2020 legally recognises Sikhs as an ethnic group.

Put up or shut up!

In recent months we have not wasted our time to respond to Lord Singh’s continuous and sometimes offensive postings on discussion groups as our work to secure Sikh rights speaks for itself.

Will Lord Singh now remain true to his word and take the Scottish Government to court as he promised at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Hounslow?

If we are successful with High Court action in England and Wales Lord Singh should also prepare to take the Cabinet Office to the High Court or Court of Appeal in the coming 3 months to reverse the rights secured for Sikhs.

He wants Sikhs to only be officially recognised as “Indians” rather than “Sikhs” arguing this is better for “visible” Sikhs.

Lord Singh under oath argued in court Sikhs were an ethnic group in the Mandla v Dowell-Lee case in 1983. He has not remained true to his word spoken in court.

He can now prove he will (with the support of his so-called 130 paper-based Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations) remain true to his promise at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Hounslow to take the UK & Scottish governments to court to argue Sikhs are Indians and this protects visible Sikhs.

The 14-year old Sikh school girl (Sarika) won her Kara case in South Wales in the High Court in 2008 due to her Sikh ethnicity. Lord Singh would have argued with his logic Sarika is not a visible Sikh and denied her right to wear the Kara to school. 99% of Sikhs are visible Sikhs for simply wearing the Kara!

Posted to Sikh News Discussion by
SFUK sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk

The Hindu – Gunmen attack Pakistan stock exchange in Karachi, seven killed

The gunmen attacked the building with grenades and guns, media reported.

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan 29 June 2020. Gunmen attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in the city of Karachi on Monday killing two guards and a policeman before security forces killed all four of the attackers, police said.

Separatist insurgents from Balochistan province, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility in a post on Twitter but Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the claim and spokesmen for the group were not available for comment.

“We locked ourselves in our offices,” Asad Javed, who works at a brokerage in the stock exchange building, which is in a high security zone that also houses the head offices of several banks, told Reuters.

Javed said he was on the ground floor when he heard gunfire and an explosion and people scattered for safety.

The police chief in Pakistan’s biggest city and financial hub, Ghulam Nabi Memon, told Reuters the gunmen attacked with grenades and guns after pulling up in a silver Corolla car.

They threw a grenade at security men posted outside the compound then opened fire on a security post. The four were killed when security forces posted there responded.

Their car was abandoned where they left it.

Two guards and a policeman were killed and seven people were wounded, Deputy Inspector General of Police Sharjil Kharal told media.

A counter-terrorism official told Reuters the attackers were carrying significant quantities of ammunition and grenades in backpacks.

The BLA claimed responsibility in a brief message on a Twitter account set up shortly before the raid, describing it as a “self-sacrificing” attack carried out by its Majeed brigade.

The account was suspended a short time after the attack.

Separatists have been fighting for years in resource-rich Balochistan, complaining the southwestern province’s gas and mineral wealth is unfairly exploited by Pakistan’s richer, more powerful provinces.

The BLA’s Majeed brigade also took responsibility for an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in 2018. Several projects linked to China’s Belt and Road initiative are in Balochistan.

This month, three explosions on the same day claimed by a little-known separatist group killed four people including two soldiers in the southern province of Sindh, of which Karachi is capital.

The Pakistan Stock Exchange did not suspend trading during the attack. Its main KSE-100 index dropped 220 points but it later recovered and was 200 points higher at 0830 GMT.

Islamist militants have also launched attacks in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan over the years but their violence has become less frequent after military operations against various factions in strongholds on the Afghan border.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistan-stock-exchange-in-karachi-attacked-several-killed/article31943253.ece?homepage=true

The Telegraph – Myopic vision

India’s fundamental problems are social and economic

Sunanda K Datta-Ray

New Delhi – India, 27 June 2020. Rajnath Singh’s mission to Moscow recalls Xan Smiley’s famous dismissal of the Soviet Union as “Upper Volta with rockets”. Xan is editor at large of The Economist and a great-grandson of Lord Minto.

The bon mot he coined in an article in Britain’s The Sunday Telegraph in 1987 (and which has since been attributed to august personages like Henry Kissinger and Helmut Schmidt) seems apposite for an India that thinks sophisticated arms will solve problems rooted in economic backwardness.

Singh was primarily on a junket. The excuse was last Wednesday’s Victory Day Parade, the original of our own Republic Day jamborees, in Moscow’s Red Square to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of what the Soviets called “The Great Patriotic War”.

India’s 75-member tri-service delegation marched with other celebrants, but given New Delhi’s special relationship with Moscow, Russia provided 62 per cent of India’s total weapons imports during the last five years , India had to be represented at a high political level too.

Narendra Modi himself might have cut a dash in an outsize safa if he had not been inching closer to the United States of America and Israel, probably as much for their weapons as because Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he fawningly calls “Bibi”, are just his kind of people.

The jaunt’s real purpose was evident in the defence minister’s jubilation over a “positive and productive” outcome: Russia agreed to expedite delivery of the five regiments of the Russian S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system India contracted to buy for more than $5 billion, with an $800 million advance payment, when Vladimir Putin visited New Delhi in 2018.

It isn’t clear whether the assurance also applies to India’s additional purchase of 33 Russian-made Su-30MKI and MiG-29 UPG class jet fighters. Or whether they, too, are scheduled to be delivered at the end of next year like the S-400.

But the urge to lay hands on the S-400 as quickly as possible seems to have been triggered by the clashes in Ladakh.

So is the clamour to boycott Chinese goods, shun Chinese cuisine and deny Chinese visitors hotel accommodation. Popular frenzy is only to be expected in times of crisis.

Dachshund dogs (originally developed in Germany more than 300 years ago) were hung from London lamp posts during the First World War when even the Royal Family thought it prudent to adopt an English name.

There was a move during the Zinoviev letter controversy on the eve of Britain’s 1924 general election to repaint letter boxes, red being associated with the Soviet Union.

Japanese residents in Calcutta put up ‘JAPAN’ stickers on their cars in 1962 so that they were not mistaken for Chinese. Greater sense is expected of government leaders.

But not perhaps from those who don’t realize that given India’s dismal record, it is counter-productive to keep harping on luring foreign firms away from China.

Of the 56 companies that left in 2018-2019, only three came to India. Eight went to Thailand, two to Indonesia and 11 to Taiwan. Vietnam gained most with 26.

Indian spokesmen from the prime minister downwards speak in so many tongues that nothing seems certain.

But it passes understanding how an anti-aircraft weapon system or jet fighters can be any more relevant than clichés like ‘Swachh Bharat’ and ‘Atmanirbhar’ in a border skirmish fought with fists, rocks, clubs and barbed wire in the most primitive fashion imaginable.

So far as anyone knows, India is not fighting an all-out war. There has been no indication of any intention of bombing Chinese cities. Nor of any need to defend our cities from the Chinese.

Why then the sudden scramble for a sophisticated air defence system unless, like Smiley’s Upper Volta aka the Soviet Union, izzat demands the most ostentatious that money can buy?

It also passes understanding why India did not sit up and take note when Lieutenant-General Xu Qiling replaced the 63-year-old General He Weidong as head of Western Theatre Command and supremo in Xinjiang and Tibet.

New Delhi’s China-watchers must have known that the 57-year-old Xu, the PLA’s rising star and reputed favourite of Xi Jinping who promoted him lieutenant-general last year, was chief of staff of the elite 54th Army Corps involved in suppressing the 1959 Tibetan uprising and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

His predecessor has been given a less arduous pre-retirement posting in the Eastern Theatre Command.

“[T]he Western Theatre Command needs a younger commander to lead frontier soldiers and officers in this current sensitive period,” a military insider told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.

“The working environment in the Western high altitude is very tough and even young people age prematurely there.”

Inattention to such details is part of a sorry tradition of overlooking or ignoring significant developments on the border.

The most notorious oversight was of the construction between 1951 and 1957 of China’s National Highway 219 through the Aksai Chin plateau.

The 1999 infiltration of Pakistani soldiers disguised as shepherds in Kargil also went unnoticed.

Much of the current controversy centres on the more recent surreptitiously-built four-kilometre road between two mountain spurs, Fingers 8 and 4, fringing Pangong Tso (lake) that has unilaterally shifted the Line of Actual Control in China’s favour.

The main relevance of missiles and fighters in this situation is to make a political point, like the transfer of MiG-29s to Indira Gandhi’s government before any Warsaw Pact member had them or the needs of even the Soviet air force had been fully met.

“What kind of people are these Soviets who said that they have no such thing as a MiG-29 in October and agree to their manufacture in India by December of the same year?” she asked ingenuously, affecting not to understand Moscow’s volte face to pre-empt Ronald Reagan.

Last year, Putin expedited the delivery of the S-400s to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, a Nato member, and snubbed Trump. New Delhi expects Trump to issue a waiver as he can under US law, presumably because of his own bitter wrangling with Beijing.

But offending China will not strengthen India so far as the present limited confrontation is concerned.

Singh’s jubilation hints at other ‘proposals’ India has made and the Russians have received positively. But however much Moscow’s position may have changed since 1962, it is shortsighted to place too much reliance on weaponry alone.

India’s fundamental problems are social and economic. Oxfam’s appeal for donations says politely that the pandemic “has shown that India’s public health system is not equipped to fight a health crisis”.

Truth to tell, it isn’t equipped even to look after the minor ailments of 1.3 billion Indians on a regular permanent basis.

The obtuseness of the administrative officer in Delhi who refused to visit Shanghai because it was only “a bigger Mumbai” prevents us from acknowledging that India lags behind China in every index of growth and development.

Without admitting that China’s urban development, industrial infrastructure and special economic zones are superior to ours, we will never catch up, leave alone surpass China.

India was in recession even before Covid-19 cost the exchequer an estimated Rs 30.03 lakh crore with dire predictions of the economy shrinking this year to 3.1 per cent and consequent incalculable human misery.

China has also suffered grievously, but its GDP is 4.78 times greater than India’s, and 2.38 times higher when purchasing power parity is taken into account. That economic muscle is reflected in China’s military might, not the other way round.

It’s only demographically that the two countries are comparable and that screams of India’s weakness.

Intense congestion means less of everything for most people. In short, today’s equivalent of rockets instead of houses, jobs, schools and hospitals.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/indian-economy-in-recession-clash-with-china-and-rajnath-singh-mission-to-moscow/cid/1784020?ref=opinion_home-template

Sikh24.com – Pakistan ready to reopen Kartarpur corridor on 29 June but India refuses

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 27 June 2020. After more than a three months long closure due to Covid-19 pandemic, the Pakistan government is going to reopen Kartarpur corridor on 29 June i.e. on the 181st death anniversary of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Notably, the Indian government had suspended pilgrimage to Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib on 16 March.

Sharing the information, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the Pakistan government has completed all the arrangements to ensure social distancing and sanitisation within Gurdwara premises.

“As places of worship open up across the world, Pakistan prepares to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for all Sikh pilgrims, conveying to the Indian side our readiness to reopen the corridor on 29 June 2020, the occasion of the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh,” Qureshi tweeted.

Meanwhile, it is learned that the Indian government has refused to resume Kartarpur pilgrimage citing health issues.

To ensure adherence to the health guidelines, Pakistan has invited India to work out necessary SOPs for reopening the Corridor.

Gentbrugge – Gentbrugse Meersen

Gentbrugse Meersen
07 April 2020

Inundated meadows

Muddy path !

Inundated meadows

Muddy path !

Nice looking plant – is it ‘native’ or a garden plant blown in by the wind ?

Inundated meadows

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

New Report: India’s BJP Scrutinized Over Afghan Sikh Massacre

Kite Fights is likely to raise many eyebrows in New Delhi

Pieter Friedrich – 28 June 2020. There’s more than meets the eye at first glance when one scrutinizes the motive for the massacre of 25 Sikhs at a Kabul, Afghanistan Gurdwara in March 2020, and considers the geo-political realities of neighboring countries with vested ideological and territorial interests in the so-called “graveyard of empires.”

“Kite Fights is likely to raise many eyebrows in New Delhi,” writes Canadian Sikh journalist Gurpreet Singh about the new report co-authored by myself and Bhajan Singh, a humanitarian and businessman known as an activist for minority rights.

“Those who are really concerned with what is happening in South Asia need to take out time to read Kite Fights thoroughly and with an open mind.

One may agree or disagree with interpretation of certain facts, but their authenticity cannot be challenged.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) not only claimed credit for the massacre of Afghan Sikhs but also insisted it was an act of revenge for India’s actions in Kashmir.

Such actions, over the past year, have included scrapping Kashmir’s constitutionally-guaranteed semi-autonomy, stripping it of statehood, mass-arresting the entire civil society, imposing an ongoing lock-down, and deploying tens of thousands of new troops to join the hundreds of thousands already occupying the region.

Terrorism is typically in pursuit of a political goal. The struggle over Kashmir, and who will control it, has certainly provoked much terrorism over the decades.

Yet how did any of the parties involved in the dispute over Kashmir benefit from the slaughter of Sikhs in Afghanistan?

Indian establishment commentators are now declaring the attack was part of a nefarious Pakistani strategy to thwart Indian interests in Afghanistan, a region which is increasingly viewed as a second front and a new battleground in India’s war to thwart Pakistan.

Shishir Gupta, executive editor of the The Hindustan Times, insists the killings were “ordered” by the Taliban “at the behest of Pakistani deep state with the larger motive of driving out India from Afghanistan.”

Gupta claims, “The play is much deeper with Pakistan setting sights on forcing India out of Afghanistan post withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan.”

Yet researchers indicate that ISIS is at war with both the Taliban and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, long accused, sometimes correctly, of sponsoring cross-border terrorism against Indian interests, has, in recent years, openly acknowledged that, regretted and denounced it, and pledged a complete reversal of course.

Elements affiliated with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the other hand, are known for not only sponsoring pogroms of minorities but also staging terrorist attacks used to frame Muslims.

“The report points out that the incident came as the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP government in India was facing international criticism for mistreating religious minorities, particularly Muslims,” writes Gurpreet Singh.

“In all probabilities, the attack was like a god-sent opportunity for the Indian establishment for reasons well explained by Friedrich and Singh.”

War is the health of the state. “Relations between the two countries have never been stable,” says Gurpreet Singh about India and Pakistan. Are there incentives to prevent peace?

Hostile relations with Pakistan, fueled by raging Islamophobia, has always been not so much a policy position as a raison d’être for the BJP.

“Our fight for independence can be deemed to have come to a successful close only when we liberate all those areas now under enemy occupation,” said M S Golwalkar.

The chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the fascist paramilitary that birthed the BJP, Golwalkar called for “the hoisting of our flag in Lahore and other parts of Pakistan.”

Golwalkar’s ideological forerunner, V D Savarkar, laid the mosaic floor in the RSS/BJP’s temple of hate.

In 1938, calling Muslims “dangerous to our Hindu nation” and saying they should be watched “with the greatest distrust possible,” he threatened, “If we Hindus in India grow stronger, in time these Muslims, will have to play the part of German Jews.”

Meanwhile, Nazi Germany staged Kristallnacht, the first pogrom against German Jews, thus laying the foundations for the Holocaust.

Savarkar, who articulated “Hindutva” as a religious nationalist political ideology, insisted that the entire Indian subcontinent was “not only a fatherland but a holy land” for Hindus.

“The only geographical limits of Hindutva are the limits of our earth,” he declared.

Golwalkar also presented an “expansive image of our motherland” that stretched from Iran to Singapore and as far south as Sri Lanka, and absolutely included Afghanistan.

Lal Har Dayal, another foundational Hindu nationalist ideologue, insisted that “the future of the Hindu race” required the conquest and conversion of “Afghanistan and the Frontiers.”

He wrote: “Afghanistan and the hilly regions of the frontier were formerly part of India, but are at present under the domination of Islam.

Just as there is Hindu religion in Nepal, so there must be Hindu institutions in Afghanistan and the frontier territory; otherwise it is useless to win Swaraj.

If Hindus want to protect themselves, they must conquer Afghanistan and the frontiers and convert all the mountain tribes.”

For decades, The Republic of India has had a deep footprint in Afghanistan. Today, India views Afghanistan as a “second front” and an “emerging new battleground” in its rivalry with Pakistan.

That foreign policy outlook takes on far more sinister dimensions when New Delhi is dominated by the expansionist and supremacist RSS/BJP.

Meanwhile, the stated motive for the Kabul massacre bursts into flames when exposed to the light of day.

Why would Sikhs be targeted in revenge for India’s acts in Kashmir when they have grown famous for their self-sacrifice for the Kashmiris? As Gurpreet Singh writes:

“Notably, when 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers had died during a suicide attack blamed on Kashmiri insurgents seeking freedom from India in February 2019, BJP goons started targeting innocent Kashmiri Muslims all over India.

This polarization helped the BJP government win its second term, riding on a Hindu nationalist campaign.

“As if this were not enough, the BJP government passed a highly discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that only allows non-Muslim refugees to enter the country from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

“Sikhs have stood up for Muslims both in the wake of the February 2019 suicide attack and against the CAA.

They helped Kashmiri Muslims stranded in other parts of India to safely reach their homes and were in the forefront of the protests against CAA.

“The Sikh diaspora also came out to show its solidarity with Kashmiri Muslims during demonstrations held in the USA and Canada.

This has not gone down well with the BJP, which has an agenda to assimilate Sikhs into the Hindu fold.

“It is therefore logical to ask that why would Islamic extremists be targeting Sikhs in Afghanistan?”

So why then were those 25 Sikhs slaughtered in Kabul? There is no satisfactory answer to that question.

The only response is that the incident must be probed by a patient, full, and transparent investigation that treats official accounts with the greatest of skepticism and questions, with the utmost suspicion, those who stand to benefit the most.

Official narratives, ideologies, and authorities must all pass interrogation to be deemed trustworthy and true.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

Discover more by him at
www.pieterfriedrich.net

The Print – Flagging Chinese incursions for long – Galwan flare-up was waiting to happen: Ladakh leaders

Local leaders, cutting across party lines, say authorities at all levels ignored red flags, but Ladakh development council chief claims such inputs were never received.

Sravasti Dasgupta and Sajid Ali

Leh – Ladakh (J&K) – India, 28 June 2020. The violent face-off with China that left 20 Indian soldiers dead in Eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on 15 June shocked the world and the country in equal measure.

But as India and China lock horns in a dangerous flare-up not seen in decades, several local leaders in Ladakh and villagers along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) said the writing was on the wall.

Speaking to ThePrint, local leaders claimed that the Chinese have been intruding into Indian land for years, and that they had raised red flags with authorities at all levels, from the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), which governs the region, to BJP MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and even the central government.

Their concerns and red flags, they added, were ignored time and again, though LAHDC chairperson Gyal P. Wangyal said the council never received any such input from any local leader.

Chinese prevent nomads from grazing on Indian land

Ladakhis living along the border areas claim that they have been losing their grazing land due to increased Chinese presence for the last many years.

Spearheading the cause of the nomads has been the Nyoma Block Development Council Chairperson Urgain Chodon, who in a series of Facebook posts since last year has claimed that the Chinese were increasingly threatening nomads in the Nyoma block.

The Nyoma block abuts the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and is about 60 km from Pangong Lake.

The Facebook posts by Chodon, a BJP leader from a nomadic family, date back to May 2019.

Four days before the Galwan Valley attack, on 11 June, she had shared her earlier post from 11 July 2019, in which she had written that Chinese PLA soldiers had entered 6 km into Indian territory at Dhola village in Nyoma Block, unfurled their national flag and stopped locals from hoisting the Indian, Tibetan, and Buddhist flags to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday.

The post also says that later in December 2019, they claimed the adjoining land as theirs.

In another post on Facebook, she said PLA soldiers had threatened villagers and warned them against grazing in territory that they claimed was Chinese land.

“Not just for the past couple of months, I have been raising these concerns since 2015,” Chodon told ThePrint. “As recently as April, I posted about how we noticed 300-350 Chinese vehicular movement but I deleted the posts later because I was told my posts are creating panic.”

Konchok Stanzin, executive councillor, LAHDC, also of the BJP, too acknowledged that small flashpoints have been occurring for a couple of years now.

“There have been small skirmishes over Chinese flags and banners being unfurled in Chumul, Demchok (at Nyoma Block), Chushul (at adjoining Durbuk Block) and even Pangong since 2017. But they have been short-lived and have been resolved locally,” he said.

Not just local BJP leaders, even Congress leaders have claimed that Chinese presence has only increased over the years.

Rigzin Spalbar, former chief executive chairman of the LAHDC, said a canal he inaugurated in Demchok in 2013 was occupied by the Chinese in 2018. “I inaugurated the canal on Gandhi Jayanti in 2013,” he said.

“In 2018, the Chinese were sitting over there and had taken away our nomads’ summer pasture land. What more proof do you want?”

Not just leaders, but locals too have raised concerns about increased Chinese presence on Indian grazing lands.

A local resident from Changthang region’s Phobrang village, about 15 km from Pangong Lake, told The Print that his family has been stopped by Chinese from grazing their herds.

“Earlier my family could go as far as the Green Top area near the LAC to graze our herd. But then the Chinese began stopping us,” said the resident, who didn’t want to be named.

“My father used to say that he would earlier see the Chinese below Green Top Hill, now they’re right on top of Green Top Hill so we stopped grazing there.”

Green Top Hill is above the finger area of Pangong Lake.

Local Ladakh leaders claimed that they have raised these concerns with the top leadership-even as high as the local MP, the defence minister and even the Prime Minister, but to no avail.

“Every year Chinese have been moving inch by inch towards Finger 4. We have raised these concerns that China is moving in and our nomads are not being allowed to move, not just with the LAHDC chairperson but also with former J&K Governor Satyapal Malik, present Ladakh L-G R K Mathur, MP Namgyal and even the PM when he visited in 2019,” said Tashi Namgyal, councillor of Tangtse constituency, to ThePrint.

“We have given reports but we don’t know what has happened.”

According to New Delhi’s claims, Finger 4 on the northern bank of the Pangong Lake is part of Indian territory as India’s claim line is at Finger 8.

Local leaders claimed that they have been raising this issue for years. “In August 2015, when then defence minister Manohar Parrikar visited Leh, I informed him about increasing Chinese presence and how they were not allowing our nomads to graze their herds by occupying areas near the border,” said the Congress’ Spalbar.

“The Army’s GoC Northern Command was also present when I brought this to the Minister’s notice. But nothing came off it.”

Residents claimed that when MP Namgyal visited Changthang last year, they wanted to take him to show the exact spots where the Chinese had allegedly come in.

“When the MP visited earlier this year, we wanted to show him the spot where Chinese had come in and were not allowing us nomads to graze our herds,” said the local resident from Changthang. “But since it was 40 km away, the Army did not allow.”

LAHDC chairperson Gyal P Wangyal, however, denied receiving any such input from any local leader. “We have not ignored any red flags. I don’t know how they have made such claims.

My source reports don’t claim any such instances. PM Modi too has said there has been no territory claimed by the Chinese and we should believe him,” Wangyal said in an interview to ThePrint.

ThePrint tried to reach MP Namgyal over phone and through WhatsApp messages for a comment but he did not respond. This report will be updated if he replies.

Allow our nomads to move freely to avoid Chinese occupation

The way out of “the Chinese inch-by-inch occupation”, local leaders said, was to allow Ladakhi nomads to graze in their traditional pastures in areas close to the LAC.

“The biggest issue is that the Army is stopping our nomads from going to traditional pasturelands citing security,” Spalbar said.

“When China sees there are no nomads, they send their nomads from Tibet. Our Army doesn’t object and our nomads aren’t there so then the PLA soldiers come in and pitch tents and set up camps.”

Some leaders also claimed that ITBP and Army personnel often look at villagers with suspicion and stop them from proceeding further.

“Instead of looking at villagers with suspicion, the government should ensure nomads aren’t stopped,” Tashi Namgyal said.

“Look at China, they always send their nomads first and then PLA soldiers follow. The government must come up with a similar policy.”

The leaders also said the time is ripe to acknowledge the role of nomads in border villages in maintaining national security. “Nomads are the vanguards of our borders.

Big words like patriotism and nationalism are used but when it comes to the issue of borders only border people are bothered,” Chodon said.

“Nobody comes to our aid. We have been losing our land for years but nobody cares.”

Army sources in the Northern Command, however, told ThePrint that nomads were never stopped from carrying out their grazing activity.

“Army has never stopped them and Indian grazers are continuing their activities unhindered in these areas.”